Troubled Hearts: Should I Stay or Should I Go (Judges 4:1-3)
Should I Stay or Should I Go (Judges 4:1-3)
So you don’t think your sin is a big deal (4:2)? Who knew such a little conjunction could carry such weight? Learn a harsh lesson from Israel, the covenant people of God—those who experienced his loving-kindness. They again did even, so the Lord gave them over to desires of their hearts. Listento Israel—there is no sin in your life, whether small or large, that does not have consequence. The wages of sin- any sin- is always death.
Israel’s sin had a natural consequence. Jabin of Hazor harshly oppressed God’s community for twenty years. Jabin hailed from Hazor, the most powerful city in northern Canaan, and today its remains are the most prominent ancient ruins in modern Israel.
Jabin’s expert commander was a man named Sisera—most likely a Hittite or Philistine mercenary. Sisera was a capable and ruthless man, a killing machine. At his disposal were 900 iron chariots. These vehicles were the latest military hardware and gave the Canaanites superiority in the Jezreel valley.
Chariots were not used to break through enemy lines but to pursue and slaughter the fleeing enemy. For Israel, 900 iron chariots were the ultimate instrument of fear and oppression. It was a reminder that no one could escape.
In like manner, you can never run away from the chariots of righteous judgment. You can’t run and ignore iniquity; you must confront it face to face. And God does just that. Salvation comes from the most unexpected places.
Salvation comes from the most unexpected place (4:4-5). Now we meet Deborah “bee,” the wife of Lappidoth and a judge. She is a female prophet in the line of Miriam, Huldah, and Anna (NT). The hope for Israel lies not in a man of conquest but a female judge.
Deborah is a reminder that the Lord gives a voice to the voiceless. Women in the ANE were seen as insignificant. Yet, Yahweh displays his power through the marginalized.
We see Deborah sitting under a tree in Ramah and Bethel. It’s interesting that while Jabin sat enthroned in might over Canaan, hope was sitting under a tree. Salvation comes from the most unexpected places.
Notice where Deborah is not— Bethel/Shiloh (the place where the ark rested). Instead, she is sitting under the palm tree in the hill country, a location easily accessible for almost every Israelite. Thus, the Lord’s salvation is open to all who come, because His grace is easily assessable by faith.
One day while sitting and judging, Barak is summoned. His name means lightning, suggesting he has hero potential. Yahweh chooses a man named lightening to one day defeat the Canaanites- whose chief deity was Baal. ANE inscriptions picture Baal riding on storm clouds—in one hand a club of thunder and in the other a spear of lightning. The One True God raises a local man Barak (lightning), to defeat the idolatry of Baal, and show there is no other god but Yahweh! Salvation comes from the most unexpected places.
[Pause] Here is what we know: Yahweh commanded Barak to fight from victory up on Mt. Tabor, a fact that Barak never disputes. And Barak responds to Deborah’s directive, “I'll go if you go.” In one breath, the commander said, “I will go” and “I will not go.” Not a great start for our leader.
Yahweh accomplishes His purposes through flawed individuals (4:8). Barak is the first judge who exhibits a reluctance to lead. Twice Deborah had to remind him of the Lord’s call and command (4:6 and 4:14).
Have you ever felt like Barak? Knowing what the Lord requires and yet on the fence? Struggling, “should I stay or should I go?” Maybe for you, that is salvation, baptism, call to missionary work or pastoral ministry, sharing the Gospel, or turning away from sin. Yet, despite Yahweh’s assurance of victory, Barak resists the call to go.
Deborah said she would go, but Barak would receive no honor because the Lord would sell Sisera to a woman. This is not Deborah saying that Barak fights like a girl. Instead, the honor would go to a non-soldier (woman). Salvation comes from the most unexpected places.
Ultimately Deborah went up with Barak, and the Lord gave Israel victory that day. The Canaanites fled, and Sisera ran. He ran into a tent of a lady named Jael, who killed him when he was sleeping. This story is immortalized in the song of Deborah—one of the most ancient works in the Hebrew Bible.
But that is not the end of Barak. Heb 11:32 And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, 33, who by faith conquered kingdoms.
If you ever felt hesitant to do what the Lord wanted, and now you feel useless, let Barak be a constant reminder that God accomplishes his flawless purposes through flawed individuals. By faith, Barak won God’s approval, and you can too!
Let’s go back to the battle (4:4:12-15). As directed by the Lord, through Deborah, Barak went up to Mt. Tabor. Today, Mt. Tabor in the Galilee region is one of the best places to paraglide in Israel. This mountain sits above the Jezreel Valley and controls one of the most critical crossroads in the region.
Something strange happened on Mt. Tabor (4:14). Sisera goes up as Barak goes down, and the Lord throws Sisera into a panic so that the entire army flees on foot (not chariot). I told you that salvation comes from unexpected places. It was not Barak that received glory, but the Lord who threw the Canaanites into a panic—the standard OT phrase for Yah routing his enemies.
Spiritual victory is not accomplished from the earth up but from heaven down.
Sisera went up the mountain, and the Lord came down. As Deborah sang about that day, “ Judges 5:20 the stars fought from the heavens; the stars fought with Sisera from their paths … March on, my soul, in strength! On that day, salvation was found on Mt. Tabor.
Many years later, Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain (Mt. Tabor is the traditional site of the transfiguration) by themselves. 2 He was transfigured in front of them, and his face shone like the sun; his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good for us to be here. If you want, I will set up three shelters here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Matt 17:5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown and were terrified.
Salvation came to Israel in the valley because the Lord delivered His people on the mountain.In the same way, salvation comes to you when you recognize that His beloved Son is the way, truth, and life. Salvation comes from unexpected places.
On Mt. Tabor, Jesus revealed his glory to the disciples so that they would believe by faith. Later, Jesus would reveal his glory on a cross—a cursed instrument of Roman execution. Jesus went to the cross because there was no other way for sinners to reconcile to the Father.
Salvation is found in unexpected places: a manger, a cross, and an empty tomb.
It is by faith that Barak won God’s approval. In the same way today you can have God’s approval:, 8For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works so that no one can boast.
God’s approval is not found in what you do, but what Jesus did for you. Salvation comes from the most unexpected place—the cross of Calvary.
Don’t you think your sin is a big deal? Look to the cross.
Feel useless? Yahweh accomplished His purposes through flawed individuals
Reluctant? You can’t go back, but you can obey Him today.